March 26, 2020

As the number of coronavirus cases continued to rise in the Florida Keys, The College of the Florida Keys and the Monroe County court system on Wednesday announced further restrictions in an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19 virus.

As of Wednesday afternoon, there were eight coronavirus cases that stemmed from the Florida Keys, according to the Health Department. There were four cases in Key West, three in Key Largo and one involved a non-resident of the Keys who contracted the virus in Monroe County.

The College of the Florida Keys is conducting all business remotely and will continue classes online through May 1, the last day of the spring semester, college spokeswoman Amber Ernst-Leonard said.

The college’s physical locations, the Key West campus, Upper Keys center and Middle Keys center, are closed to the public. Only students who are currently in the residence hall and employees with CFK identification are permitted on the Key West campus. Students, parents and community members are able to receive service through telephone, email and other technology during normal business hours.

“The College of the Florida Keys remains committed to serving our community. While our employees are working from their homes, we are continuing to provide a high level of customer service. We are actively engaged with our students and dedicated to supporting their academic success,” CFK President and CEO Dr. Jonathan Gueverra said in a prepared statement Tuesday night.

CFK’s leadership team, in consultation with leadership from the college’s Faculty Council and Student Government Association, has cancelled the spring commencement ceremony and student awards banquet. Students who meet the requirements to graduate this spring will still earn their credentials and are encouraged to participate in the fall commencement in December.

Additionally, the college has postponed the Upper Keys center ground-breaking ceremony. Open-house events have also been postponed.

Through the CFK Foundation, students were issued laptops and additional resources are available from the Keys Hope emergency grants. Current students can receive more information about applying for a Keys Hope emergency grant by emailing foundation@fkcc.edu.

CFK has donated medical supplies from its nursing program to Key West Advanced Urgent Care and Mariners Hospital, Ernst-Leonard said.

All criminal and civil trials, jury selection and grand jury proceedings are suspended through April 17, according to State Attorney’s Office spokesman Larry Kahn.

Florida Supreme Court Chief Judge Charles Canady issued the directive on Tuesday, following earlier directives that limited court proceedings to maintain safe distancing.

“Many court proceedings have been delayed and substantial efforts are being made to enable judges and court personnel to conduct court business remotely or on alternate work schedules,” Canady wrote. “Judges who can conduct court business from a remote location are strongly encouraged to do so.”

However, “nothing in this order … is intended to limit a chief judge’s, which in Monroe County is Judge Mark Jones, authority to conduct court business or approve additional court proceedings or events that are required in the interest of justice so long as risks to the health of the individuals involved and the public health are minimized.”

Judge Canady wrote that “all time periods involving the speedy-trial procedure, in criminal and juvenile court proceedings, are further suspended” through April 20. The suspension of time limits under the speedy-trial procedure restores additional days equal to the number stated in a previous administrative order.

A proceeding that has commenced may proceed to completion if the presiding judge, with the approval of the chief judge, determines that completion of the proceedings without delay is required by the interests of justice, Kahn said.

For defendants arrested in other jurisdictions for crimes allegedly committed in Monroe County, bond conditions will be reviewed in the other jurisdiction rather than requiring transport of the defendant to the county where any warrant or crime occurred.

In cases where a defendant will continue to be detained in another jurisdiction for an indefinite period of time, the case can be temporarily transferred to that jurisdiction’s court contingent up the chief judges’ order, Kahn said.

tohara@keysnews.com